Reconciliation and Truth
I’m currently thinking a lot about the Australian Church and reconciliation. At the more theoretical end, I’m thinking through what the essence of the Church’s ministry of reconciliation is; and to what extent can we presently experience the final reconciliation that God promises when he makes all things new. While, practically, I’m fascinated by what are our particularly Australian stories of reconciliation that need to be told; what opportunities there are for reconciliation to occur in our societies; and how the Church can be involved in all of this. A big chunk of my time at college this year will be thinking through these things – and I hope to post some reflections from time to time.
Today I had the great joy of reading Colonisation and Christianity by 19th Century, English Author William Howitt. It is a painful read – recalling to mind seemingly endless evil often committed in the name of the Church’s Master. But Howitt zealously called into question European colonisation, and its relationship to Christianity – and named it for what it was, evil.
To comprehend the full extent of atrocities done in the Christian name, we must look the whole wide evil sternly in the face. We must not suffer ourselves to aim merely at the rediness of this or that grievance; but gathering all the scattered rays of aboriginal oppression into one burning focus, and thus enabling ourselves to feel its entire force, we shall be less than Englishmen and Christians if we do not stamp the whole system of colonial usage towards the natives, with that general and indignant odium which must demolish it at once and forever (Colonisation and Christianity, 10).
How many Waterloos can the annals of the earth reckon? What Timour, or Zenghis Khan, can be compared to the Napoleon of Modern Europe? the (sic) greatest scourge of nations that ever arose on this planet; the most tremendous meteor that ever burnt along its surface! (p, 4)
But most monstrous of all has been the moral blindness or the savage recklessness of ourselves as Englishmen. (p, 6)
In hindsight, Howitt’s attempts to bring into light the evil of the past did not go far enough, but it is a valuable example of, what seems to me, to be a universally recognised essential starting block; That in order for reconciliation to occur between two parties with a history of bad blood, then there must be a revelation of the truth. A painful, honest look at the past – painful for the offender, reminding themselves of guilt and leaving them vulnerably in the hands of shame. But likewise, and particularly, painful for the victim – again, leaving them in a vulnerable position where they might be forever labelled as ‘victim.’ But if a genuine reconciliation is to occur then this pain must be exposed.